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Ranchers will continue to feel long-lasting impacts of Western Oklahoma, Texas wildfires

Cattle near Langston graze in a field.
Mitchell Alcala
OSU Agricultural Communication Services
Cattle near Langston graze in a field.

As landowners wait for their fields to green up after recent wildfires, ranchers will be monitoring immediate and long-term wildfire effects on cattle.

Fires burned across thousands of acres of Oklahoma land and injured or killed livestock. Barry Whitworth is a veterinarian, senior extension specialist and beef quality assurance state coordinator with the Oklahoma State University Extension. He said cattle that survive these fires need to be checked for physical injuries like burns or damage on their feet.

Although there are immediate needs of livestock after a fire, post-wildfire trauma in animals can also have a lasting impact.

Whitworth said ranchers should keep an eye on respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, which is common in livestock after wildfires.

He said the stressful situation of a wildfire can stir animal health issues and cause premature births from pregnant cows.

“I think - you try to keep these animals in a stress-free of an environment as possible, and be sure and feed them well,” Whitworth said. “We've got to meet their nutritional needs during these times of stress because that's probably one of the best things we can do for them.”

Whitworth said this could be a problem for producers who can’t get food for their animals. But organizations have been donating supplies like hay and milk replacer to help ranchers keep their cattle’s nutrition on track.

Because the animals are already stressed, he said producers should be using low stress handling techniques.

We don't want to get in there and rouse those cattle around or do other things like that, that just raises that stress level more than it already is,” Whitworth said.